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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Old and bitter

Author Topic: Old and bitter
Member # 1646

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I've been on this board for nearly two years now. In that time I've seen it undergo a lot of changes in dynamic, personality, and even (subtly) in format. I've learned a lot here. From critiques I've received and discussions I've had about style and technique I feel that I've become a good writer. I'm not satisfied with that, I want to be great, but good is definitely better than amateur.

Of course, a lot of what I know and feel I know is my opinion, but there comes a point in time when you at least want your opinion respected, even if it is not shared. I guess I'm getting old and bitter.

In the past couple of months I have made a scant handful of responses on F&F. At least twice in that time I've had my head bitten off as a reward for my decision to take the time and effort to try to help.

Have I become mean in my responses or something? Have I become callous or in some other way invited attack rather than the courteous "thank you" i expected? Has my advice gone too far over the heads of writers who are maybe only ready for smaller bits of change?

Sometimes I feel as if I've outgrown this board. At first I stayed because I needed to learn things. Then I slowly transitioned to providing more advice than I took. Then I stayed because of the people and personalities I like so much.

But now...I don't know what happened. Maybe I'm expecting too much from people. Maybe wanting a "thank you" rather than an attack is simply asking for too much from writers who are just beginning to learn how to get their work critiqued. Then again, maybe it's time someone else taught them that particular lesson.

I've been less active on these boards of late. I would expect that to continue. I would also not expect a response on F&F unless I know you.

In the meantime, I will throw this out one last time before I get blue in the face from it:


1. THANK YOU (This is the best option.)
2. A CLARIFYING QUESTION (Use this option with care, and only when you are inclined to either agree with a comment or when you do not understand the comment. You do not use this option if you disagree with a comment. You simply ignore it.)

There are many unacceptable responses to a critique. Too many to enumerate. But just so you understand the basics:

When you send your story to a publisher, you do not get to explain or argue. If a publisher takes on your story and publishes it, you do not get to explain to your resaders. You do not get to argue. You do not get to tell them what you meant. The only communication you get is through that story. Critiquers try to tell you what they are hearing on the other side so you can hone your message, not so you can explain why they were wrong.

Now, I'm going to get a late breakfast and clearn the house. Sometimes I put off clearning the house by responding to a few fragments, but clearning the house seems like a lot more fun right now.

Posts: 3567 | Registered: May 2003  | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 2192

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oh my God, Christine is breaking up with us! If she says "It's not you, it's me," I'm going to cry.

I'm sorry you're feeling old and bitter, Christine. I've been there, with other sites, and it's not fun.

My opinion - I don't think you've become mean at all. I've been surprised by the reaction you've gotten a few times lately. You seem to have tangled with people who are still learning how this site works, and aren't ready to appreciate your comments yet.

Take care of yourself.

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Member # 1411

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I absolutely know what you mean. One thing I noticed after attending OSC's bootcamp last year is that my critiques have been much more pointed. I've learned to winnow prose into good and bad and I rarely hold punches. I imagine that if a writer isn't used to such a direct format, it can seem abrupt.

I've withdrawn a bit from these boards over the past year, also. I supplement this one with the private board for my bootcamp class, but also Codex. I think it's important to change your surroundings, partially because new people means new viewpoints, but also to keep with a crowd that is writing at your level (I don't mean skill here, but rather dedication).

I guess the moral of my story is: don't fret it. Things happen, people change, and the world has yet to spin off its axis. Don't be afraid to follow the path further down the road.

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Member # 2062

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I always appreciate your posts Christine. Sometimes (rarely) I disagree with them. But often I find you have explained things better than I could ever hope to.
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Member # 2354

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Christine -

I don't think you've become mean at all. I have not had the pleasure of a crit from you but I've read other comments of yours and they are always insightful.

I think writers not used to receiving crits always feel the need to explain themselves, which could easily be taken as arguing. You made a very good point that we will not be able to make such an explanation to an editor or to our readers so we need to get used to that now.

I appreciate the value you add to this site.

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Doc Brown
Member # 1118

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The great writer Hunter S. Thompson had words to suit this occasion, but not the Hatrack habitat. Perhaps you can fill in the blanks yourself.

"Don't let the ____ing _____rds get you down."

Anyone who asks for a crit should not expect praise. But anyone who provides a crit should expect a thank you.

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Member # 2354

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Doc -

Are you saying that a critiquer should never give praise? Or are you saying that a writer should not count on getting it but can be pleased if he does?

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Lord Darkstorm
Member # 1610

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I can agree that praise is nice to get, but unless your story is perfect (no, none of mine ever are) it isn't likely.

I've found that I rarely notice any part that is better than the rest. Either the story is well done, or it has problems. I can point out problems I see and ignore the rest. Maybe it isn't what someone wants, but if I don't have any problems with a story...that is praise. I do have rare moments when something strikes me as done so well I notice, I do mention those.

I think the problem is that we all have our transition time when we realize that we can write something that is readable. Similar to the first grade kid and the finger painting. No one will tell the kid that the stick figure doesn't look like a person, but that is because they are a child. Here, I would rather have someone tell me something doesn't work...or even if it sucked, rather than go on believing it is better than it really is.

I'm still trying to figure out why the stories I write and don't like, have less issues than the ones I do...

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Member # 2267

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I've done a lot of critiques since coming here. I've had 3 react with something other than "thanks" or "please clarify." I didn't like it when I got something else, but still, courtesy and gratitude are the norm.
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Member # 2034

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I know that I haven't been on the F&F board alot lately, but life has gotten in the way.

I don't know from personal experience if you've ever done a crit for one of my pieces or not, but I thank each and everyone that has helped me out with the troublesome pieces that I'm trying to write.

I can also understand that a bit of nastiness is and can be tiresome and unacceptable. I also agree with you that a thank you should be given out to those that take the time out of their busy schedule to do you a favor by reading and giving you their thoughts on your writing.

With that said, I have always said at the end of the crits that I give, I say hope this helps or something like that.

If you decide to leave us here, Christine, I for one will be sad to see you leave. You have a gentle tone, but more importantly, you give us knowledgeable and insightful points on our writing.

Sorry if you decide to leave, but IT is your decision after all.

You'll be missed.


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Member # 2213

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I suspect that I speak for many when I say that I'd be sorry to see you go.

While I enjoy critiques that speak to what a writer is doing well as well as pointing out the problems, it is far more important that the problems be found. Due to time constraints (and some other factors) I haven't been hanging out at F&F much lately, but when I post there, while I appreciate every offer to read that I get, I especially hope for critiques from a select group of people (a group that you are part of, I might add). And it ain't because they give me the most lovin' on the critique!

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Member # 2109

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The great writer Hunter S. Thompson had words to suit this occasion, but not the Hatrack habitat. Perhaps you can fill in the blanks yourself.
"Don't let the ____ing _____rds get you down."

Which, like any good writer he 'adopted' from an earlier one, in this case, the unknown who scratched 'illegitmi non carborundum' on the walls of the catacombs uner Rome. I wonder where he or she got it from? The Egyptians? The Sumerians?

Bye, Christine. Sometimes it's just time to go on. We lesser writers will have to muddle along without you. I do appreciate the time you've spent here and I have learned from you. That is a great gift. Thank you.


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Member # 213

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It does get old at times, even for me. I've taken a few sabbaticals from the forum, and that's true of many of the experienced members.

In a sense, you're now graduating from being a newbie. There's an entire world beyond this writer's forum. Go forth and conquer.

And do come again, I so enjoy our little chats

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Doc Brown
Member # 1118

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Of course critiquers should give praise when appropriate. But anyone who submits expecting praise is a fool. If your writing is that perfect you don't need critiques from us. But if your writing isn't perfect and you're seeking a critique, why would you expect praise?

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Member # 2398

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I have only posted a couple of things on F&F and appreciated all the feedback. Christine you have no idea how helpful your critique was for me.

I suspect part of your angst here is the one all teachers have when they find out they can't be students any more. I recall some difficulty myself at work about a decade ago when I realized all my favorite teachers were dead.

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Member # 2354

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Doc - excellent points. I just wanted to make sure I understood since I'm still learning the process of critiquing. Thanks for clarifying.
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Member # 2470

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I've only been here a little while.
But I don't want any of the oldies to go.

Apart from the loss of experience and intelligence, it's lovely to come to a place where people know, like and respect each other. What I have noticed about this forum is how kind and caring people are of others work.

Sometimes one needs space of course. Sitting in front of a screen typing thoughts is never a replacement for talking face to face. Especially when you want to give people a big ol' blast.

And looking for something that isn't there is terribly frustrating - especially if it is good manners.

But please don't go angry and annoyed, it is a terrible way to leave.

I can only offer blue sky thoughts but they are a lovely colour and travel online very well.
Take care of yourself whatever your decision.

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Member # 2415

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I've only been a member here about two months, but I've been reading this forum for almost a year before that (off and on.) What little I managed to read and understand, I always thought your posts were worth my time. I'll also be sorry to see you go, but thanks for the time you spent here. It is appreciated.
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Member # 1923

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Hi Christine

I've only ever found your posts helpful and courteous. You have a great deal of experience which you have been so kind as to share with us all and we will miss you.

But you can always drop back in - for a cup of tea and a chat? Best of luck with all the wonderful things you're doing with your life and let us know the result of that other big project you're in the middle of.

Regards as always

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Member # 2265

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There comes a time when your time is best spent writing. To me I think you are on the edge of moving to fulltime writing which will leave little time for critiques and so on.

I have learned much from your posts and I am sorry that you may be leaving.

JB Skaggs

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Member # 2387

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Christine, I'd hate to see you go, but I understand perfectly why you feel you need out. I've enjoyed reading your posts, and you've always been one of my favorite hatrackers. I wish you the best whatever you decide.


Posts: 437 | Registered: Feb 2005  | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 1646

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I just want to follow up with a thanks for all your warm comments. I will not disappear entirely, but for many personal reasons it is time for me to find other ways to spend more of my time.

I have learned a lot here, but not in quite some time. I don't mean to sound snobby or anything, but I've got the basics. I need to find a place where I can work on new challenges; where I can go from being good to being great. I have even identified a couple of key problems with my writing: character motivation and depth of emotion. It has taken me a long time to identify these problems because no one ever phrases them that way. Nevertheless, the answers I seek lie in practice, practice, practice, and perhaps even (as Rahl mentioned) finding a group that is as dedicated to writing as I am. There are many dedicated writers here, but many more who have other commitments. With the exception of my family, I have no more important commitment.

So I will poke my head in here and see what's new. I have already begun skipping threads that turn out to be repeats of discussions I've taken part in a dozen times. I will most likely continue to skip those threads. I will poke my nose in F&F from time to time as well, although I will mainly stick to critiques of familiar names.

And I will definitely keep looking in "Hatrack Writers in Print." I expect to see that forum become more active. That means any of you who are still sitting on short stories and too scared to send them out better get busy or suffer my wrath!

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Member # 2515

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I am a newbie here, but I have belonged to other discussion lists in the past, and I understand what you mean when you say that it is time to move on. There is always a fair amount of repetition, as we new folks come on, and you don't need to keep hearing the same ideas over again.
As for the other - that's what your "delete" key is for. If people don't appreciate your comments, and feel compelled to tell you so, that's THEIR problem, not yours. One of the great things about interacting over the internet is that you really don't have to listen to folks being rude to you.

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Member # 2088

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There are many dedicated writers here, but many more who have other commitments. With the exception of my family, I have no more important commitment.

I think you'll be surprised how much a baby can intrude on a person's dedication to writing. [evil laugh]

I wish you well. I hope you'll find yourself able to devote as much time to writing as you wish.

Wanted to add that I've always found your crits, at the very least, thought-provoking. I'll miss your comments.

[This message has been edited by Keeley (edited April 25, 2005).]

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Member # 2208

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i've kind of divorced myself from F&F. i don't really have the time for it right now, and i don't really have the... knack? for either critting or recieving crits yet.

however, Christine, i have GREATLY appreciated your input here in Open Discussions. I am learning a lot here and will continue to do so until i feel like taking another go at F&F. at which time i return to F&F, i will hopefully be better prepared to take the crits and resist my devilish need to debate.

yes, i admit it, i am a debater, and my writing reflects on it, and i am certain that my posts as well, reflect it. i realize, however, that i need to be extra careful with crits to RESIST the inner spirit of debate and just thank the person or ask for clarification. take the debate into myself and create characters for the person i want to debate with in my head (i really do fictitious debates in my head at times...)

anyways, Christine, if at any time i may have offended you, i sincerely ask for your forgiveness and wish you only the best with your career in writing and your career as a mom. yes, i do recognize motherhood as a career of perhaps such proportions that i would never dream to try to become "Mr. Mom" as the country song goes.

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